For he (Lewis) talked like an angel. My idea of how angels might talk derives from Lewis. His prose is brilliant, amusing, intimate, cogent; but his talk was of a superior order. It combined fluent, informal progression with the most articulate syntax, as if, somehow, it was a text remembered – and remembered perfectly. The steps of his argument succeeded without faltering, with each quotation in the original tongue, well pronounced. (To keep up his half dozen languages he belonged to reading groups – J. R. R. Tolkien’s Kolbitar for Norse, the Dante Society for Italian, another group for Homeric Greek.) Add an extraordinary memory, and you can see how any situation was for him accompanied by a full-voiced choir of verbal associations. "Probably no reader," he writes, "comes upon Lydgate’s ‘I herd other crie’ without recalling ‘the voces vagitus et ingens in Virgil’s hell.’" For this assumption, Lewis has been called "bookish" – a dumbed down response. Of course he was bookish; hang it, he tutored in literature. Even standing on the high end of a punt in a one piece swimming costume with a single shoulderstrap, about to dive, he had time for a quotation, half heard over the water, something about silvestrem. Was he teasing me for reclining at ease in my punt...

Alastair Fowler
Yale Review, Vol. 91 No. 4 (October 2003), pp. 64–80

2 comments:

Nomad said...

A friend who used to be taken along by Lewis to the pub gatherings now and then has said that the talk was indeed wonderful, and it is all gone, all vanished-- whole treasurehouses of argument and exposition and imagination and discussion and speculation. That is so for everyone who is both a wonderful intellect and wonderful talker, but it makes you sigh, anyhow! Oh, to have been a lucky fly on the wall, back then!

Iambic Admonit said...

I'm hopeful we'll be able to evesdrop on, perhaps even join in, those conversations once we've passed over out of the shadowlands!

~ Admonit